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, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 593-604, https://doi.org/10.36487/ACG_repo/908_47
The long history of mining in South Africa has left a legacy of around six thousand abandoned mines
scattered around the entire country. Many of these mines are situated in the Mpumalanga coalfields. Mining
commenced at the turn of the previous century, initially with little environmental degradation associated
with the mainly board and pillar mining method of the time. However, subsidence occurred due to pillars or
strata floor collapsing, sometimes decades after mining ceased. Subsidence causes damage to surface
infrastructure and interferes with the drainage of surface water and may also impact aquifers. Secondary
effects included spontaneous combustion of abandoned coal mines being accelerated both above and below
ground. Burning discard coal dumps present further potential for spontaneous combustion and air pollution
from fugitive emissions of particulate matter and gases including methane (CH4), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and
oxides of nitrogen (NOx). Acid water has been linked to the death of fish, crocodiles, frogs and cattle. Open
cut coal mining also has the potential to irreversibly pollute the ‘pristine’ pans and lakes by disrupting their
hydrology and ecology. This study focuses on the impacts and consequences of abandoned coal mines in the
Mpumalanga coalfields and on prioritising them in terms of risks they pose to human health and the
environment. The prioritisation of these mines for rehabilitation as a follow up on the strategy for the
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